For security reasons, I purposefully limited my stories from India while I was in country. The situation there is vastly different than my previous visit in 2010. Christianity Today reports on the growing opposition to Christianity at the highest levels of government.
Radical Hinduism and Indian nationalism are driving factors in the increasing levels of unrest and instability Christians face…one of the fastest and most intense increases seen.
India’s Hindu nationalism has been growing since the election of nationalist Narendra Modi to prime minister in 2014, and was highlighted by the election of nationalist president Ram Nath Kovind last summer.
Under Modi, religious freedom violations against Christians—such as social exclusion, abuse, and imprisonment—have spread unchecked. In 2017, Open Doors counted more than 600 persecution incidents, though “most cases actually remain unreported, so the true number is much higher,” the organization said. (At the same time, Compassion International’s 589 Indian centers serving 145,000 children were shut down without explanation.)
Local authorities now feel empowered and emboldened to act against Christianity, local churches, and any and all outside or western influences in local churches or parachurch ministries. For example, if a local church applies for a building permit, the only way the permit will not get lost is if a bribe accompanies the application, and that still may not be enough to keep the project moving forward.
Officials are constructing Hindu temples funded by the national government at a furious rate. Where a strong non-Hindu influence exists in a village or community, officials build the places of idol worship across the road or on an adjoining property to the Christian church. From there they can disrupt the gatherings of the local church.
Thankfully and by God’s grace, I did not experience any opposition, but my hosts were careful not to create situations where problems might arise. I did not preach at any open air evangelistic meetings or in places where there was not a trusted, established church and network of Christian leaders. My hosts purposefully darkened the windows of the car so as to conceal my white skin.
At 1.3 billion the population of India is nearly four times that of the United States. The overwhelming majority bows down to idols of varying shapes and sizes. Most of the populous knows nothing of the saving grace of God by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The Deceiver has convinced the masses that Christianity is a Western religion. Of course, this is a lie, one of untold numbers of lies the Wicked One uses to keep humanity in darkness.
Christianity is an Eastern religion. We in the West are the outsiders. We experience this over and again in our preaching and study of the Bible. Western preachers spend so much time in sermons explaining ideas in the text that Indians and others from the East know intuitively.
For example, a local church pastor in India spends virtually no time explaining the idea of head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11 (see the picture to the left). He simply reads the text and makes the applications to his local church. When a pastor in America or other parts of the West preaches 1 Corinthians 11, he will spend a significant amount of his sermon explaining the idea before attempting any application. The same is true for texts that allude to sheep and shepherds, the comparisons between wheat and chaff and the blowing wind, David’s seeing Bathsheba from his rooftop, and so many more.
There are many good things to observe about the church in India. They sing like you can only imagine. The buildings are full for Sunday gatherings and special events midweek when the American comes to visit. They listen intently to the preaching of the Word of God for more than one-hour while sitting crossed-legged on concreate or marble flooring.
But the church of India has significant weaknesses too. The church is highly susceptible to false doctrine. Many of its pastors have only basic Bible training. The church members must resist the love of the world and the fascination with Bollywood, the largest film producer in Indian, an industry that puts out more films than any other in the world, nearly 2.5 times the number produced by the United States.
The contribution of our church to the work of the gospel in India is small in total dollars. We support four mission works across the country at a total of less than $5,000. Maybe we will be able to do more. While the number is not significant, the impact of the gospel in India is significant.
I met generational Christians and a woman recently converted from Hinduism. Her husband remains unsaved. I met fathers attempting to lead their families in the worship of the living God and away from the worship of idols made by man’s hands.
I met children orphaned or impoverished who live in the children’s homes we help fund. In these homes, they receive provision and protection and are learning of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many of them have professed faith.
I met college students whose life goal is to return to their villages in rural India, villages where two-thirds of the population of India live. Away from the megacities of Mumbai and Delhi are villages of thousands with no light penetrating the darkness. Our giving, our prayers, our sending of pastors to encourage and train contributes to the expanse of the gospel.
There is more to tell, but be certain, Christians in India need your prayer support. And be certain, God is using your giving to expand the work of the gospel in India.
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